The experience factor and the retail challenge

Global chief commercial officer (CCO) from payments provider Adyen spoke to CMO about the challenge of retail, the experience factor and frictionless payments

Context, control and convenience are vital if retail brands are to build customer experiences that meet expectations, Adyen's commerce chief says.

The ecommerce payments platform chief commerce officer, Roelant Prins, spoke to CMO about the challenging times in high street retailing, the value of creating experiences for customers and the need to innovation. 

“The main thing customers are looking for when they go out shopping, when they go to stores, is experience. To be delighted and to experience new things," he said. "The age of experience is asking how you can engage with customers by giving them great experiences.”

To get there, Prins highlighted three main pillars to delivering on modern retail customer experience: Context, control and convenience.

“If you combine those well, you have a holistic approach to delivering on the expectations of experience,” he said. 

Credit: Adyen

Context is about offering a personalised way to interact with customers such as recommendations, having their purchase history available and make the interactions relevant to them. Control, meanwhile, is facilitating how consumers interact with the brand so it’s in the way they want to interact, whether it’s via the phone, in-app or in -store.

Convenience is about making things fast and frictionless. For example, purchasing in-app or online needs to be fast and it needs to be easy, Prins said.

“Experience also means finding your own way. Truly figuring out as a brand, what defines you, what makes you unique," he said. "Think about how you interact with a customer. Looking at differentiation and how you compete.”

Prins doesn’t underestimate the challenge for brands in attending to the various challenges in front of them: Competing on price as well as meeting the rising customer experience expectations.

“Everyone’s talking about it, but delivering on that is the hard part," he commented.

So as further advice, Prins identified four main things brands doing CX well behind the scenes to make things happen. The first is innovation, but not in isolation.

"Innovation can’t be disconnected from the core business. For example, with new retail initiatives, they should be piloted in real stores, to gauge the practical impact with real-world feedback," Prins advised. “A lot of brands have special labs for their innovation, but what we see is they build new things in a way that’s disconnected from the real experience and real feedback.”

The second pillar is to use existing infrastructure and find a way to modify it, instead of thinking it’s necessary to adopt entirely new technology or platforms. Third is the importance of organisation. Making the cultural changes needed to be more CX led must happen first before it’s possible to make changes with customers, Prins said. 

“If you want to change, start with changing your actual organisation. Instead of having separate teams and sections for online, for retail and then another for omnichannel, look to have it connected," he advised. "That’s where the real value is. When data is sitting in one place, that’s when you can really start to serve your customers better.”

Adyen's fourth element is payments. In terms of making shopping more frictionless, payments is a key element in enabling, Prins said.

“Data plays quite a bit role in that in terms of how things are organised. Usually payments sits with finance or treasury teams, which has been typically looking after it," he said. “And if treasury own payments, they look at it with really different KPIs. It’s looking at the cost element.”

But with new ways of interacting with customers, has come a changing role of payments, and this needs to be represented in the way the financial side of the business is organised, Prins said.

Local retail conditions

In terms of Australia's retail environment, Prins saw many of the same challenges existing elsewhere and noted one in particular: Amazon. Credited with raising the stakes in terms of speed of delivery, availability and price, the behemoth has put the heat on high street or shopping mall retailing.

Yet walk through any city’s main shopping mall, four years after the arrival of Amazon, and you will find many shops still operating as business as usual, according to Prins, with little innovation or new ways to engage with customers.

“Think about ‘what is the role of the store?’ It’s not simply a transactional, it’s an opportunity to engage with your customers, then they can buy online or elsewhere and at another time,” he said. “Bold moves are needed to break out of the endless promotional cycle.” 

As an illustration of thinking differently, Prins cited the example of Restoration Hardware in the US, which created showroom-like experience centres in retails store with cafes and things for customers to enjoy. The transactional elements of buying and paying are carried out separately and shipping is handled from a centralised warehouse for efficiency.

“It’s combing tech on the one hand with experience on the other side,” he said. “So the challenge is: What is the role of the store?”

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